Jury Convicts Former Police Chief

Jury Convicts Former Police Chief
Posted by FoM on February 17, 2000 at 06:51:34 PT
By Angela Simoneaux, Acadiana Bureau 
Source: The Advocate Online
After three hours of deliberation, a jury convicted former Duson Police Chief Thomas Deville of conspiracy, weapons and drug charges Wednesday.Deville, 50, was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, carrying a weapon in support of a drug crime and interstate travel in support of a drug crime.He faces a maximum possible penalty of life in prison.
Deville was accused of being part of Lanier "Pops" Cherry's drug ring, which investigators said distributed more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.It was the target of a Southeast Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation called "Sweet Dixie." Agents from the FBI; Louisiana State Police; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; the U.S. Customs Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the U.S. Marshals Service and Lafayette Metro Narcotics participated in the investigation.Deville's 14 co-defendants, including Cherry, all have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. The jury's verdict followed five days of testimony, which wrapped up Tuesday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Mickel and defense attorney Daniel Stanford presented their closing arguments to the jury Wednesday morning.U.S. District Judge Richard T. Haik ordered Deville jailed, as is required by federal law when a person is convicted of serious drug crimes.After the verdict was read, Stanford said he believed Deville got a fair trial."I'm not going to second-guess the jury. They heard the evidence," Stanford said. "I did everything possible. I threw everything out there, including the kitchen sink. From the defense point of view, we have nothing to complain about. We were allowed to present our case to the jury."Stanford said his client will appeal."Of course I'm disappointed," he said. "And I am surprised. I didn't think the evidence supported the gun charge nor the conspiracy charge."Mickel said he was not surprised."We had a very attentive jury, and I was confident from the beginning that they were going to do the right thing," Mickel said. "I'm pleased they convicted him on all counts, but it didn't surprise me. They paid very close attention to the case, and that verdict was supported by the evidence."In closing arguments, Stanford attacked the credibility of the admitted drug dealers who testified against Deville."It's incredible that a man is sitting here in court, facing 10 years to life today based on the word of people like that," Stanford said.Stanford reiterated Deville's defense that he thought he was picking up horse feed when Cherry offered to pay him $1,000 and put him up in a hotel to pick up a package in Houston."Is it impossible to believe that Tom Deville went to Houston to pick up something legitimate?" Stanford argued. "He acted with the best of intentions. He went to Houston to pick up horse supplies."Because the issue was raised, a bale of alfalfa hay, a sack of alfalfa pellets and open bags of marijuana were set up in the courtroom Wednesday morning for jurors to smell. Stanford called the government's theory that Deville needed money "a bunch of bull" and asked where the financial records were to support that motive.He said that Deville's involvement in the conspiracy must have been "telepathic" because there was no mention of him in the statements of most of his co-conspirators or on Cherry's taped phone conversations.In his closing arguments, Mickel ridiculed the horse feed defense."Who drives to Houston to get what you can buy in Carencro, Broussard or Lafayette?" he asked. Deville knew what marijuana smelled like, Mickel said. One witness testified he could smell the marijuana from outside Deville's vehicle following the run.Mickel said it wasn't necessary for all members of Cherry's group to name Deville in their statements."You don't have to be a charter member of a conspiracy; you don't have to be on the board of directors," he said. To believe Deville, one must believe that all of his co-defendants, all of the confidential informants, all of the FBI agents, and all of the police officers are lying, Mickel argued."And, I guess if you don't buy that, you can buy the story that he went there to pick up horse feed," Mickel argued. Mickel acknowledged that some of his witnesses were "not the cream of society." "These are dope dealers and dope users. They are criminals," he said. "But even a clock that's broken has the correct time twice a day."And, although his co-defendants described trips in which they concealed marijuana in creative ways, it makes sense that Deville did not, Mickel argued."Of course they concealed it," he argued. "They weren't police officers. They weren't carrying guns and badges. They didn't have the perfect cover. And they didn't have the trust of the people of Duson."Deville, who was defeated in October 1998, was indicted in May last year.In another case, Deville was indicted in 1996 on state charges of indecent behavior with a juvenile and malfeasance in office, and re-indicted on those charges in 1997 after the original charges were dismissed on a technicality. Deville has appealed the second indictment and has not been tried. Lafayettecomments about our site - comments theadvocate.comPublished: February 17, 2000Copyright  2000, The Advocate, Capital City PressRelated Articles:Prosecutors Bring Alfalfa, Pot to Court in Deville Case Describes Drug Odor Chief Asked for Drug Run Ex-Chief Not Drug Runner 
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